Mike McCoy is taking the San Diego Chargers to the playoffs in his first season as an NFL head coach, and he can thank another former University of Utah star for making it happen.
Boldly, and barely.
Eric Weddle converted a fourth-and-2 play into a first down via a fake punt in overtime of the Chargers’ 27-24 victory Sunday. San Diego eventually kicked a field goal on that first OT possession, then made a fourth-down stop to win the game.
So the Chargers finally took advantage of the great opportunity that Kansas City coach Andy Reid, a BYU graduate, gave them. Reid knew his team was locked into its playoff position, so he rested ex-Ute quarterback Alex Smith and other key players. Yet the Chiefs led most of the game and could have won in regulation, if not for missing a 41-yard field goal.
Weddle was fully responsible for the overtime gamble, making the call as the upback in punt formation from the Chargers’ 28-yard line. If the Chiefs had stopped him, they’d have taken possession, already in field-goal range.
“If we are going to go down, let’s go down doing what we do — and that’s playing aggressive until the end,” Weddle told Chargers.com.
San Diego tight end Antonio Gates described the play as “Weddle just being Weddle,” and McCoy said, “Thank God it worked out the way it did.”
After surging into the pile for the first down, Weddle lost the ball, but he was ruled down.
So Weddle, who made 12 tackles Sunday, added another chapter to the story of his Pro Bowl season, while McCoy earned a playoff berth in his first year. That’s an achievement, regardless of how the Chargers struggled to beat a short-staffed Kansas City team.
McCoy and the Chargers (9-7) deserve credit for winning their last four games. As the AFC’s No. 6 seed, they’re the biggest underdogs in the wild-card round of the playoffs, visiting Cincinnati on Sunday.
Kansas City, the No. 5 seed, will travel to Indianapolis on Saturday, as Reid and Smith try to extend their first season together.